Newsletter 2021/2 (February)

Dear Everyone
With the courts closed, this has to be a time for planning ahead for when we are set free again. Maybe around Easter for competitive play? Your guesses will be as good as mine – I dare say even better. But with great optimism, we have now put together a complete programme for season 2021. We just need to check a few points, then hopefully we can give you the outline in the next Newsletter. As I reported last month, we’d like to kick off on Saturday 24th April with the Charity One-Ball in aid of the British Heart Foundation.

Our principal open tournaments are shown in the Croquet Association’s online Fixtures Calendar, and you can find them at the foot of our club details page which gives their short titles, dates, and key dates for entering (allocation dates and closing dates), though entries aren’t open yet. The tournaments flagged with a knife and fork are those where we offer simple lunches, and you’ll have seen June’s appeal yesterday for volunteers to join the catering team – please don’t be shy!

One last thing I want to report in this newsletter is the funeral of Jolyon Kay, the first cause and founder of this club, without whom it would never have come into being, two days ago [Note: 15th February] at St Michael’s in Blewbury, with the limited and distanced attendance demanded these days. Fellow club members and friends of Jolyon who able to be there were Deirdre and Malcom Cochrane and Avril Rangoni-Machiavelli, as well as myself, representing all of the club.

Finally, I want to include the obituary of Jolyon that Minty Clinch has written, which should appear in the next Croquet Gazette after I’ve added one more item, which is that in 2003, the year our new courts were opened, he was awarded a CA Diploma for outstanding services to croquet. Minty was fortunate to have been able to interview Jolyon early last month while researching the history of this club for our web site.

Jolyon Kay, September 1930-January 2021

Croquet said goodbye to one of its most endearing globe trotters when Jolyon Kay died on 27th January, 2021. He is buried in the cemetery alongside Blewbury Croquet Club (BCC), his passion since he founded it in 1992. He was at school at Charterhouse, then graduated with honours in chemical engineering from St John’s College, Cambridge. Shirley, his wife of 64 years, was a modern languages student at the same time.

Jolyon spent a decade in the UK chemical engineering industry. In 1958, he started working at the Harwell Atomic Energy Research Establishment (Harwell Science and Innovation Campus from 2006), a job that introduced him to neighbouring Blewbury; the Kays bought Treble House, the first of five homes they owned in the village, and settled down to raise their four children. With his colleague, the late Mike Duck, he established the Harwell Croquet Club.

In the early 1960s, he joined the Foreign Office. His first assignment was at MECAS (Middle East Centre for Arab Studies) in Lebanon where he learned Arabic and studied regional affairs. One of his early postings in a 30-year ‘striped trouser’ career was Economic Counsellor in Saudi Arabia (1974-1977). He enjoyed the variety of his new life: a visit to the King one day, helping a British tourist with a lost passport the next, prepping a businessman for a big contract, telling him who and how much he’d need to bribe to win it. Wherever he went, the genial diplomat with the mallet established impromptu croquet courts: colleagues and locals loved the games he devised in Jeddah, Casablanca and Dubai.

In England for summer breaks, he revisited Blewbury, competing in croquet tournaments until he became ‘one of the better players in the region’. Why not a club of his own? Once committed, Jolyon was not a man to be denied. From small beginnings in 1993, when he announced his project in the Blewbury Bulletin, to the grand opening of two expertly laid courts and a clubhouse on Tickers Folly Field on 31st May, 2003, he worked tirelessly to raise funds and sustain momentum. By using professionals to pitch to Sport England, BCC received £42,000 under the Capital Grant Scheme, the largest award to any croquet organisation in recognition of a start up’s value to the community. ‘Not bad for a Victorian pastime with a somewhat crusty image’, he mused.

With BCC up and running, Jolyon promoted the game on the Croquet Association (CA) Council from 2001-2006, serving as Chairman of the CA International Committee from 2003-2004. After time as Chairman of the Southern Croquet Federation (SCF), he became Coaching Officer and SCF Regional Representative on the CA Council, using his Grade 1 coaching qualification to run courses for club members and juniors.

Over the last 30 years, he spent much of his time in Anogyra near Limassol in Cyprus. Shirley was a Middle Eastern archaeologist and a prolific writer: the latest of 16 books, Olives and Lemons, analysed the changes in the village over those decades. In September, Jolyon enjoyed his 90th birthday celebrations with his wife and their granddaughter, Saffron, but returned to Blewbury after Shirley was buried under Cypriot skies two months later.

Perhaps remembering his production of T.S.Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral for the Blewbury Players in St Michael’s Church, he rented the house across the road. On warmer December days, the nonagenarian sat outside at noon, mulled wine in hand, to catch up with old friends.

Now, in the words of his daughter, Gigi, ‘we are all pleased to think of him buried beside the Blewbury Croquet Club, smiling benignly whenever he sees the residents enjoying the club into which he put so much love and passion and energy’.

Thanks, Minty. And now best wishes to you all –

Paul Wolff

Newsletter 2021/1 (January)

Dear Everyone
New Year greetings to you all. Here’s to happier times on the courts once the pandemic subsides. As usual in January, we are addressing our Club summer programme. This year, we hope the season will be as near normal as possible. If not, we’ll make adjustments down the line.

For now, the courts are closed, but essential maintenance is proceeding, provided by Chris Bateman and our volunteer mowers. We are very grateful to you all. The courts will be their 6/7 winter size when we’re allowed to re-open them.

Lockdown is the perfect time to bone up on the Laws (AC) and Rules (GC). Players have the responsibility to take them on board before they compete. The 5th edition of the GC Rules has been around for a couple of years so I’m sure you’re all up to speed. No time for complacency though. The current AC Laws are 12 years old, and a re-written 7th edition has been proposed by the World Croquet Federation (WCF) after very lengthy consultation. The Croquet Association plans to adopt these from March 1st this year. There are no major changes, but the devil is in the details which must be assimilated .

Although the new edition is more wordy, I find it easier to read and follow. The hard facts are on the WCF web pages with a downloadable introductory statement, proposed 7th edition, and summary of changes from the 6th edition. An official written commentary is being prepared.

As a referee I’d like to explain the changes to all our AC players before the season begins. A Zoom video session would be a good starting point. Or we could break it down into bite-sized chunks? Unfortunately we can’t gather in the pub to go through it but all suggestions will be gratefully considered. I look forward to hearing from as many of you as possible as soon as possible on this one.

And now for some good news. A warm welcome to the new members who have joined the club since the end of the 2020 season.

  • Sally Batty – already a croquet member at Phyllis Court;
  • Penny Brassell – a central figure in Blewbury Badminton Club;
  • Josh Angers, Max Crome, Cosmo Denny – all Junior members, from Bradfield College;
  • Bo Liddiard – a relative newcomer to croquet.

It’s great to have you on board: some of us have met some of you, though not as many as we’d like in the current crisis. We hope you enjoy your croquet at Blewbury and look forward to playing with you and getting to know you soon.

In sad contrast, I recently learned of the deaths of two people who had key roles in the early years. Shirley, wife of Jolyon Kay, the Club’s founder, died in Cyprus the the autumn of 2020. Mike Duck, Jolyon’s Harwell friend and loyal supporter, died in July. I have happy memories of needle matches with both of them, always so enjoyable especially when I didn’t lose. Jolyon has now rented St Michaels House opposite the church in Blewbury: I’m sure he would like to catch up with old friends as circumstances permit.

As we’re looking back, you can expect an imminent reboot of the Club History page on our web site. I think our 30th birthday must be approaching. Keep your eyes open.

Association of ideas: birthday: birthday suit: no, don’t get excited, but clothing. First, after a very long gap, we are re-sourcing croquet kit carrying our club name and logo. When I say ‘we’, it’s really Carol Jamieson who’s working on it. It would be so nice to see it worn again around the courts and in team matches. More news when it’s close to becoming available. And second, there are clothes that have been hanging in the clubhouse for months, even years. I will recycle them painlessly as soon as I get around to it. Owners of said clothes, you have been warned.

Ball marker jar

Still in the clubhouse, our store of coloured plastic ball-markers has been restored from the darkest recesses of the cupboard to its rightful storage jar. As everybody should know, metal coins can do disastrous damage to a £6000 tournament-grade lawn mower so it is absolutely forbidden and a heinous crime to use them as ball markers. You should carry plastic ones every time you play – and that’s now explicit in the new AC laws! – so take five from the jar and put your 50p for future replacements in the money-box on the counter next to the fridge. Thank you!

Now to our coaching programme for 2021. We’re planning short structured courses for small groups focusing on specific skill sets and regular sessions with club coaches offering informal instruction at regular times each week. It would be really helpful if you, dear reader, could get back to me with specific input: AC or GC? Particular topics? Preferred days, times? Group or individual? We will try to arrange it, but only if we know what you want….

To end on an optimistic note, the domestic club season often begins with our Blewbury heat of the national Charity One-Ball competition organised each year by former Blewbury member, Kevin Carter. This year’s charity is the British Heart Foundation. There will be a donation/entry fee for the local heat, the winner qualifying for the final at Surbiton (well worth playing there – most excellent lawns) on 9th May. We’ve pencilled in Saturday 24th April for our local heat, so get it into your diaries now! And it is important to know that these days the finalists are split about 50-50 between AC players and predominantly GC players – one-ball is for everyone.

When the season is under way, who would like to play in club matches? Excellent opportunities to visit other clubs, play on their lawns, use their facilities, and meet their croquet players. Teams have between 2 and 5 players, depending on the competition. We compete at GC and AC in handicap and level play matches. In AC, handicap includes short croquet on half-courts with just six hoops for each ball; level play is under advanced rules, giving compulsory lifts during (most) games. You don’t have to turn out every time, but we need a pool of available players so we don’t enter competitions, only to find we can’t raise a team. If you’re interested in GC matches, let David Vincent know; if in AC matches, let Joe King know. They will look for opportunities to give you one or more games in team matches during the season.

Best wishes to you all –

Paul Wolff

Winners in 2020

After a short and bumpy season, we end it almost as we began it – in another lockdown. Here are the personal successes in our competitions and trophies of 2020.

Club trophies

Founder’s Cup: Robin Brown
Blewbury Golf Croquet Championship: David Vincent
The Blewbury Prebendal Manor Trophy: Peter Allan
The Icknield Trophy: John Garnett
The Roger Cambray Memorial Shield: David Long

Club open tournaments

One-day GC B-level, 17 June: Peter Adams (Caversham)
One-day GC C-level, 4 July: Peter Allan (Harwell and Blewbury)
AC Advanced Weekend, 18-19 July: Robin Brown (Blewbury)
One-day Short Croquet, 8 August: Tim Lacey-Hulbert (Kington Langley)
AC C-level Advanced Weekend, 29-30 August: Aston Wade (Hamptworth)

Semi-open tournaments

All-England Handicap (GC): National finalists David Vincent, John Garnett
Berkshire Handicap (AC): Anthony Hardwicke

Club Player of the Year Shield: John Garnett

Founder’s Cup 2020

The Founder’s Cup is one of our oldest club trophies. It was originally the Chairman’s Cup, presented by Jolyon Kay, the first Chairman, and founder of the club. It’s played for under the conditions of level play advanced Association Croquet, so the pool of potential winners is usually rather small. Jolyon used to invite those who would compete for it each year. Still, it’s a challenge for the mere mortals among us.

The cup was re-named the Founder’s Cup when the Chairmanship changed.

This year we played on Saturday 10 October, much later in the season than usual. Robin Brown started as the clear favourite, both on form and on the rankings, and didn’t disappoint, winning all his games and taking the tankard home with him – not for the first time!

Results:

  • Round 1: Robin beat Paul +24, Nick beat Deirdre, and Joe beat Avril.
  • Round 2: Robin beat Nick, Joe beat Paul +25, and Deirdre and Avril wisely settled for a draw at equal hoops after long play out in the cold.
  • Final: Robin beat Joe +26tp in double-quick time.

Sadly, we couldn’t manage the usual tournament lunch under present restrictions.

Roger Cambray Memorial Shield

This is the Club’s annual One-ball tournament, meant to be played in a spirit of relaxed enjoyment rather than red-blooded competition. That’s not to say that the players don’t try to win! It’s usually played around mid-summer, but in this topsy-turvy year was held up until October, and became the final event of our full croquet season. Whether everyone was seizing their opportunity to get one last competition in, or the bracing autumnal weather was irresistible, we don’t know, but 22 members entered this year, surely a record.

Because of the numbers, play was split across two weekends. On the first Sunday morning we played in two separate pools of six, all playing all in each pool, ending up in these respective orders:

Pool 1: Minty Clinch, Sue Jenkins, Steve Fisher, Paul Wolff, Andy Robertson, Sandy Millikin.

Pool 2: Edmund Shirley, Peter Allan, Deirdre Cochrane, Rosemary Balsdon, Susan Tilbrook, June Wolff.

After brown-bag lunches and an exchange of groups, the following final top order was reached at the end of the first day’s play: Edmund, Peter, Paul, Deirdre, Steve, Minty.

The next Saturday morning saw the second ten of the 22 entrants play in two pools of five, finishing in these orders:

Pool 3: Nick Butler, Dave Grinstead, Brian Jamieson, Joe King, Carol Wadsworth.

Pool 4: David Long, John Garnett, Carol Jamieson, Robin Brown, Avril Rangoni-Machiavelli.

It ought to be said that the 1-ball handicapping system is very hard on A-class players. Robin’s handicap was -6, Nick’s -4, and Joe’s -3, so giving away up to 8 bisque turns in 13-point games was a bit of a challenge for them at times.

The wind was getting up, the rain was coming down – but a mere gale-blown drizzle – and after lunch a system of repechage eliminated Carol and Brian out of the top three from each of the moring pools, leaving Nick, John, David and Dave to play quarter-final games against Deirdre, Peter, Paul and Edmund respectively from the previous Sunday. Then David beat Dave and Peter beat Nick in the two semis played between the quarter-final winners.

The Final

Halfway – hoop 6 safely run
At last, the peg-out

In the ultimate final we watched two croquet players dressed as white-hooded pixies battle it out against the elements and each other. David Long beat Peter Allan 13-11, and deservedly carried home the triumphal shield. – David had lost his first game of the morning, but won every other game after that little warm-up. By an almost exclusively Golf Croquet player, it was a remarkable feat at an AC game.

Next year we plan to revert to Summer for the Roger Cambray Memorial Shield.

Berkshire Handicap

This is the re-titled Blewbury version of this year’s AC All-England Handicap, which was cancelled at National level, but not before we had collected ten individual entries from Blewbury and other nearby clubs. So we decided to play the Blewbury local heat anyway, for the players’ benefit.

Update

The Cup!

The event was played in two American blocks – that’s all-play-all in a block – and the top two in each block qualified for a decider, played as two semi-finals followed by a final and a third-place play-off on Sunday, 13th September. Anthony Hardwicke was the first winner of the Berkshire Handicap, beating Peter Allan +6 in the final and taking home the trophy, which had previously been competed for as the Blewbury and Harwell Weekend Handicap Cup.

In the third-place play-off, the closest of games, Brian Jamieson beat Deirdre Cochrane +1.

In the semi-finals, Anthony had beaten Brian +9, and Peter won +22 against Deirdre. The final standings in the block stage had been as shown below.

Berkshire Handicap – Block A – 2020

PosTeamPlayedWinsNetHoops
1Anthony Hardwicke32849
2Deirdre Cochrane32443
3Carol Jamieson31043
4John Harrison30-1235

Berkshire Handicap – Block B – 2020

PosTeamPlayedWinsNetHoops
1Peter Allan433866
2Brian Jamieson431469
3Andy Robertson43255
4Michael Kay41-2242
5Minty Clinch40-3240

The places were decided primarily on number of wins, but if that wasn’t enough, tie-breakers were applied in this sequence until a definite order is reached: who beat whom; net hoops scored; total hoops scored; and as the ultimate incentive, whoever first reported their final game result to the manager.

Covid-19: Issue 4 of club rules, effective from 11 July

We have revised the Covid-19 restrictions governing croquet at Blewbury following last week’s revised guidance from the Government and from the Croquet Association. You can read them here on this web site.

  • Controlled roll-up GC sessions are now available on Tuesday and Friday afternoons from 1.30-3.30.  You will still have to register your intent on the booking calendar, both to allow required logging/tracing, and to ensure that no more than 10 people turn up for any such session.  With a max. of 4 players allowed on each court, and potentially 10 people on the premises, priority for play should always be given to anyone “sitting out” during the previous game.
  • We also now allow double-banked singles play, both during those roll-up sessions and at other times.  Again, all names must be shown on a booking, and – outside the roll-up sessions – a 2nd pair may only use the court with the permission of the first pair booking it.

To avoid crowding, the number of people simultaneously allowed on club premises remains limited to 10.  Double-banked doubles is still not allowed.  Nor is there any change in the use of catering or waste facilities in the clubhouse – the kitchen area is decommissioned so we don’t get relays of members trying to use kettles or the fridge in that small space, and you must take home all the waste paper and food or drink containers that you brought with you or generated while at the club – please just remember to bring your own takeaway waste bag with you every time you come, and take it away when you go.

Covid-19: club rules from 21 June, with provision for guest players

We all know that the rules, regulations and guidance keep changing, yet the club is keeping up as best we can. Our latest set of guidelines, which we must treat as binding, are here on this web site. They are intended to be self-contained and consistent with current Government and Croquet Association advice.

Please take the time to read through them.

The one significant change from previous advice is that Club members may now invite guests to play, provided always that the rules about guests are followed. These are:

  • guests may only play at off-peak times, outside the peak 1:30-5:30 periods on Mondays through Fridays;
  • you must include your guests’ names in your court booking;
  • you must make sure your guests know the rules too, and follow them;
  • you must pay the guest fee of £5 per guest per session to the club, by bank transfer if you possibly can, and tell the Treasurer, preferably by email, what your payment is for.

Tournaments come back to Blewbury

On Wednesday 17 June, we held our one-day GC B-level tournament, level play for those with handicaps of 3 and higher. The CA’s tournament guidance had been published a few days earlier; we thought we might have been the first club to go with it – as it turned out, we were the second. Social distancing was the order of the day, and we kept entries down to just six players, though at least twice that number had originally signed up to play.

Peter Adams plays blue
Peter Adams (Caversham) plays the first stroke of the first game, while Neil Stewart (Eynsham) watches and waits to play red.

With staggered start times and no double-banking on either court, the games were all played at a good rate, with just two players waiting to go on as soon as one court was vacated. Each player had been given their own labelled chair well distanced from its neighbours, to use as their base station; and either luckily or by Steve Fisher’s good management, the final game was not only the deciding match of the tournament, pitting Bridget Goodman of Ealing against Caversham’s Peter Adams, but it was a close struggle that went to hoop 13 before Peter finally prevailed 7-6 and took the prize just before the late afternoon rain began.

We expect our next tournament to be the GC C-level equivalent, for handicaps 7+, on Saturday 4 July, and the playing format to be very similar.

Newsletter 2020/1 (January)

Note: The original Newsletter was circulated to Members by email on 31st January. The text now published here has been edited to remove some personal data, as well as the lawns report now published separately on this site.

Here are some short reports and updates from various Committee members.

CLUB SOCIAL – Friday 7th February, East Hagbourne Hall

David Long: (phone : secretary@blewburycroquetclub.org.uk)

A reminder that tickets are still available for our quiz night social. Tickets £10 in advance (£12 on the door) from David Long. Friends & family welcome, but feel free to come on your own and be put onto a table with other club members. Soft drinks and ploughman’s supper included in the entry fee. Wines available. Doors open 6.30; quiz starts 7.15.

Internal Communications working group

Steve Fisher:

Your Committee has asked Steve to convene a working group to make improvements to communication within the club. The first task of the group will be to find out what you, the members, want to send and receive – and how. An email will be going out very soon; please consider it carefully and respond. The group will then identify a practical course of action and report back to the committee.

Clubhouse Cleaning Rota

Andy Robertson:

As you may know, June has stepped down from her numerous duties, one of which was organising the monthly club-house cleaning rota. This arduous duty has been taken up by Sue Tilbrook and me, and we are hoping for two pieces of good fortune – firstly that all those on June’s rota last year will continue in 2020, and secondly that we can recruit a few newcomers. If we could get three or four new names, then this would mean that each pair would only have to do two sessions in the whole of this forthcoming year. Sue and I are planning to meet up at the clubhouse on the afternoon of Tuesday next week, 4th February, for a chat on how to proceed, so please join us there or let either of us know if you want to continue/join.

Andy Robertson (treasurer@blewburycroquetclub.org.uk) , and Susan Tilbrook

GC Friday Lunch Meetings

David Vincent:

As an experiment David invited all GC players to join him in a series of Friday lunch-time meetings at the Blueberry Inn. The idea was that these meetings would be partly social and partly an opportunity to discuss golf croquet in our club. By having several small meetings it was hoped to enable better round table discussions.

Although not all GC players responded, two successful meetings were held and were both enjoyable and produced useful ideas that will be put into practice. The current plan is to repeat the experiment next year.

Heads-up for National Croquet Week 2020

Paul Wolff:

The National Croquet Open Day in 2019 was a success for us. This year we plan two open afternoons, on Sat. 16th and Sun. 17th May. We’ll build on last year’s format. Please tell me (Paul) if you would like to help me with either the planning and reparation, or with being there on one or both days. At least, you could put the weekend in your diaries!

Qualifications as Coach, or as Assistant or Full Referee

Paul Wolff:

Have you thought about learning how to coach others – you don’t have to be an expert player! – or of studying the Laws and Rules of your code? There are short courses coming up this Spring, and subsidies are available. I’d be very happy to run an extended AC Laws course here myself which ought to help you play, win arguments, and prepare you for a possible future referees or assistant referees course. Let me know if you are interested.

New Club Handicappers Appointed

Paul Wolff:

I’m pleased to say that David Vincent has been appointed Club Handicapper (GC) and Joe King has been appointed Club Handicapper (AC). In their respective codes, David and Joe will be responsible for setting initial handicaps, ensuring the automatic handicap system (handicap cards) is working for you, and adjusting handicaps where appropriate outside the automatic system for players with handicaps down to 3 (GC) or 8 (AC). Watch out for improved handicap cards this coming season!

Court Closure – Update

This Newsletter as published in January contained only a summary of Joe King’s complete report, which you can read here on this web site. In short, we don’t know how soon the courts will dry out. Joe plans to inspect them and post again next week.

Best wishes to you all.

Paul Wolff

Chairman